Jackson Doughart
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Christian love no antidote to radical Islam

The Holy Post, 08 June 2011


In her article entitled Osama bin Laden and the love of my enemy, which appeared in the Charlottetown Guardian on May 17, Janet Malone reflects on the targeted assassination of the former al-Qaeda leader by American Special Forces on May 2, concluding that the operation was in fact a cold-blooded murder, motivated by American revenge for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. She opines that such a misguided response would be better replaced by inaction and adherence to the Christian teaching of love for one’s enemy.

After revisiting the facts of the case, it is clear that Mrs. Malone’s claim about bin Laden being wronged by the United States and her apology for pacifism are specious, naïve and misinformed. Furthermore, her indifference toward Islamism reflects the larger problem of religious cowardice in the wake of fundamentalism.

Mrs. Malone states that she believes in the rule of law, whereby individuals are tried for their crimes and incarcerated if convicted. Of course, no one is suggesting that the United States, or any other country, should adopt targeted assassination as a means of prosecuting domestic criminals. Bin Laden, however, was an enemy in a war precipitated entirely by his own actions. Regardless of what one thinks about the War on Terrorism, failing to see an ethical distinction between killing an enemy during a war and violating the civil liberties of citizens constitutes a severe lapse of reasoning.

Incidentally, these democratic legal principles were disastrously absent from the Taliban theocracy, which harboured bin Laden’s organization until it was overthrown by U.S.-led coalition forces in 2001. The penal system of this regime was based on a strict interpretation of the Sharia legal system prescribed by the Koran, which Mrs. Malone praises for capturing the “essence” of Christian love for enemies. The rule of law was also not applicable in Pakistan, which hypocritically accepted billions of dollars in aid money as a U.S. ally while allowing bin Laden to hide just an hour away from its capital city. The problem is not some sort of collective vengeance on our part, as Mrs. Malone suggests, but rather the willingness of these regimes to support the most reactionary groups on Earth.

Even if Mrs. Malone were correct about the rule of law question, she is mistaken in claiming that bin Laden had not been given due legal process. He was, in fact, convicted in an American court for his role in the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, establishing an international search for his whereabouts. If this were not enough, his orchestration of the attack on Western civil society solidified his position as an enemy and threat.

Bin Laden had 12 years to respect the rule of the law by answering the international warrant for his arrest. Instead, he made himself a target by continuing to organize terror plots aimed at destabilizing Western countries. When his final hour arrived, the navy seals who carried out the operation went to great lengths to ensure that none of his wives or children in the compound were killed. To paraphrase the American commander-in-chief, anyone who believes that this man did not deserve to die for his actions needs to have his or her head examined.

Osama bin Laden did not merit our love or respect, but rather our contempt and vitriol. I feel no shame in admitting that I had no sentiments of sorrow or regret upon hearing the news of his defeat. Islamists are bullies who oppose everything that is fundamental to our way of life and those who harbour resentment toward them should not be made to feel of inferior moral character.

This discussion also involves a more serious issue – the inutility of so-called moderate religious voices in combating fundamentalism. We are consistently reminded that only a small number of Muslims participate in jihadism but we fail to adequately criticize the much larger group that stands back and creates the environment in which Islamism flourishes. In our society, it is considered conventional wisdom that moderate religious voices represent a reasonable middle ground between fundamentalists themselves and those who believe that unsubstantiable religious beliefs are an integral part of the problem, not the solution. Instead, these moderate voices provide a cloak under which extreme clerical opinions can be passed off as legitimate sociopolitical commentary. We are thus left with diluted and politically-correct analysis, and a sharp aversion to any straightforward criticism.

In Janet Malone’s fantasy world, those who never stand up for themselves are virtuous and those who do stand up are misguided. Given honest reflection, anyone can quite easily conclude that this is not how the world works. Relationships of tension that are to involve any level of respect or civility must be based on mutual recognition. In the case of bin Laden, there could be no mutual love or respect because there was no such recognition of any kind on his behalf. Janet Malone can keep loving her enemies, but the rest of us cannot afford to do so, as our world view and that of Islamists are in such fundamental contrast that the game is zero-sum.

Unlike the sort of opponents that one may encounter in the life of everyday politics, apologists for fundamentalist Islam are our real enemies and anyone who is worthy of such a distinction is certainly not worth loving at all. It is time for us to recognize that love for one’s enemy is not a moral teaching, but rather a masochistic philosophy that plays right into the hands of those who mean us harm. Until we banish this doctrine from popular belief, we can count on remaining vulnerable to the plight of Islamism both at home and abroad for a long time to come.





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Jackson Doughart jdoughart (at) gmail (dot) com